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Hospital wants proof Suleman can care for octuplets, she tells Dr. Phil [CORRECTED]

February 24, 2009 |  6:27 pm

Suleman Nadya Suleman told TV host Dr. Phil McGraw on Tuesday that she fears Kaiser Permanente Medical Center may not release her octuplets to her until she proves she can care for them.

In an interview with The Times, McGraw said Suleman called him Tuesday afternoon, distressed after talking to Kaiser officials. Suleman taped two episodes of McGraw’s show, the first of which is scheduled to run Wednesday.

“What she is telling me is that unless and until she has a better living arrangement, that they are not likely to release the children to her,” McGraw said.

Suleman, a single mother who already has six children and gave birth to octuplets Jan. 26, lives in Whittier with her mother in a three-bedroom home that is in pre-foreclosure. She does not have a job and relies on government assistance, including food stamps and disability income for three of her six older children.

McGraw said Suleman told him that hospital officials had some concerns about her “ability to care for the children.” He did not have detailed information about their concerns or what standards she might not be meeting.

Kaiser officials declined to comment on Suleman’s case.

“Any conversations that the mother may or may not have had on this topic are private and we could not discuss them,” Jim Anderson, director of media relations for Kaiser Permanente Southern California, said in a statement to The Times. “In general, mothers with multiple births who have babies in the neonatal intensive care unit are given advice and counsel about what they need to have in place to care for the children when they are discharged. There is a multidisciplinary team that works with them in advance to offer advice and support.”

Typically, Kaiser does not discharge babies until they have reached at least 35 weeks of gestational and post-birth development, said Vicki Bermudez, a regulatory policy specialist with the California Nurses Assn. and a neonatal intensive care unit nurse at the Kaiser hospital in Roseville.

When the infants reach 35 weeks of development, they are released if they can maintain their body temperature, eat regularly and without difficulty and demonstrate continued growth. Often, the children are about 5 pounds when they are released, she said. 

In all cases involving very premature babies, social workers are assigned to evaluate parents and to determine what services the children and family may be entitled to, Bermudez said.

“If they feel there’s a risk to a baby, they contact Child Protective Services and Child Protective Services would make a determination as to whether or not there’s a reason for concern,” Bermudez said.

Corrected, 9 p.m.: A previous version of this post said the octuplets are 34 weeks old; they are actually 4 weeks old. The post also said that the hospital typically does not release premature babies until they are 35 weeks old; in fact, they are typically released after 35 weeks of pre- and post-birth development.

Read complete story here.

-- Jessica Garrison and Kimi Yoshino

Photo: NBC

Previously on L.A. Now

Man wants DNA test to see if he is octuplets' father

Father of octuplets' mother calls her "absolutely irresponsible"

Octuplets' mother gets a giant babysitting offer

House where octuplets' mom lives is in danger of foreclosure

Octuplets' mom identifies her fertility clinic in Beverly Hills

Octuplets story takes surreal turns, including You Tube video